FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — In its long-awaited season opener, Arkansas soccer defeated Stephen F. Austin 4-1 on Friday night in a one-sided match. Gabriella DeLeon tied a career high with two goals, both on headers, and added an assist for a five-point night.
“Being our first game, everyone was a little excited and nervous, but I think we responded pretty well,” senior Ashleigh Ellenwood said. “Gabriella is a really hard worker and she made a big difference for us tonight.”
The Razorbacks came out in force in the first half, peppering Ladyjack keeper Lillie Ehlers with five shots on goal. Ehlers began the match with four straight saves, but couldn’t stop Claire Kelley from putting Arkansas on the board in the 35th minute. Hannah Neece drove a corner kick into the box and DeLeon skied to get a head on it. The ball dropped to the foot of Kelley and she made no mistake, pushing it past the crowded scrum and into the net for her ninth career goal.
Early in the second half, Reece Christopherson started her Razorback career off with a bang. The freshman took the ball near the right sideline, dribbled to the edge of box and fired a left-footed curler that tucked under the top-left corner of the goal and into the twine. The 54th-minute shot beat substitute SFA keeper Allyson Smith, who would allow three scores on five shots on goal in the second half.
Arkansas didn’t stop its push there, and DeLeon was just getting started. In the 62nd minute, Erika Miller took a free kick inside the midfield circle that DeLeon was able to head over the Ladyjack keeper for the Razorbacks’ third goal of the match. DeLeon then rounded out the Arkansas scoring in the 71st minute, adding her second marker off a cross from Katie Kienstra; Madeline Barnes notched a secondary assist on the tally.
“This is a pretty balanced team and we feel comfortable playing a lot of players,” head coach Colby Hale said. “We have some young ones who did a great job and we have tremendous senior leadership. We also have a group of six or seven juniors who play and contribute, so that’s a good group.”
Overall, the Razorbacks had a 26-5 advantage in shots attempted and a 12-0 advantage in corners. SFA managed a goal in the 87th minute after Arkansas keeper Cameron Carter made the initial save off a shot by Kelly Ann Craig, but Ashton Norman was right there to corral the rebound and cut the lead to 4-1. But that’s where it would stay, and three minutes later when the buzzer sounded, the Razorbacks were 1-0 to open the year.
Arkansas is back in action on Sunday, Aug. 23, when Big 12 opponent TCU comes to town for a 6 p.m. kickoff. The team needs you there to break the attendance record of 2,268, set during last year’s 2-1 victory over Oklahoma St. on Aug. 24.
For more information on Razorback Soccer during the season, follow @RazorbackSoccer on Twitter.